1. ITV Report

Manston Airport Brexit lorry test criticised as 'too complex' by Dover MP

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

A Conservative MP has hit out at the Government’s plan to use a disused airfield to ease lorry congestion if there is UK border disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Charlie Elphicke criticised the idea as nearly 100 lorries descended on Manston Airport in Kent on Monday morning to test out using the runway as an HGV holding bay to prevent traffic jams on roads to Channel ports.

The trial, called Operation Brock, has seen lorries directed along the A256 towards Dover in a 20-mile journey which should take around half-an-hour.

The MP for the town lashed out at the plan branding it "too complex" and likely to cause "enormous confusion" for drivers.

He said on Twitter: "Routing lorries via Manston is not the answer.

"Far better to extend the tried and tested traffic management system on the A20 at Dover to Kent’s motorways."

He added: "Manston should only be used as a last resort.

"Trying to explain to lorry drivers - many from overseas - to go there will be very difficult.

"The whole route plan is far too complex and will cause enormous confusion."

Lorries lined up during a government trial at the former Manston Airport site in Kent. Credit: PA

In response to the post, Dover resident Gary Moore said the town is "badly affected" by truck traffic which can bring the whole road system there "to a standstill", adding: "There has to be a plan that works."

Eddie Stobart led the large convoy as lorries from regional and national companies descended on Manston from 7am on Monday to form a queue along the runway.

Other companies taking part in the trial included Ramsgate-based White’s Transport Ltd, Salvatori Group from Canterbury and Swains in Rochester.

Eddie Stobart led the convoy. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

The drivers congregated in a large group before being directed by officials from the Department for Transport (DfT), Kent County Council and police officers.

The first practice run began in rush-hour shortly after 8am, with four convoys leaving at intervals between 8.13am and 8.39am.

The first of the convoys arrived in Dover at 8.52am where they were directed to do a loop around the Eastern Docks roundabout, travel along Jubilee Way and drive straight back to the airport.

So far traffic has been relatively light on the route and the first test did not appear to cause any queues or extra congestion, according to witnesses and bystanders.

Up to 150 lorries were initially anticipated to take part but only 89 were involved, the DfT confirmed after the first test.

The drivers congregated in a large group before being directed by officials from the Department for Transport. Credit: PA

A second practice run is expected to take place at 11am.

The plans emerged last week after the DfT and council sent letters to hauliers explaining this was to "establish the safest optimum release rate of HGVs".

A DfT spokeswoman said: "We do not want or expect a no-deal scenario and continue to work hard to deliver a deal with the EU.

"However, it is the duty of a responsible Government to continue to prepare for all eventualities and contingencies, including a possible no deal.

"We will be testing part of Operation Brock to ensure that, if it needs to be implemented, the system is fully functional."

Congestion at the Channel ports caused by the reintroduction of customs checks on goods has been one of the most commonly cited negative effects of a no-deal withdrawal from the EU at the end of March.

Back at Westminster, Conservative MP Anna Soubry has hit out at Brexit protesters after being called a “Nazi” by a mob outside Parliament.

The pro-EU MP for Broxtowe was interrupted while doing live interviews on Monday on College Green, across the road from the Palace of Westminster in the heart of London.

With the home of British politics clear in the background, she was forced to stop talking during a BBC discussion while people off-camera could be heard shouting “Soubry is a Nazi”.

Anna Soubry was called a “Nazi” by a mob outside Parliament. Credit: PA

She told interviewer Simon McCoy: “I do object to being called a Nazi, actually.

”I just think this is astonishing, this is what has happened to our country.

“But let's try and move on and be positive about things.”

Protesters also chanted slogans including “Liar, liar” throughout a live interview by Ms Soubry on Sky News.

Speaking up to be heard over the chants, Ms Soubry told interviewer Kay Burley: “I don't have a problem with people demonstrating and making their views heard. I have a real problem with people who call me a traitor or 'Soubry, you Nazi'. That is a criminal offence and I'm a criminal barrister.

”I'm also a lass from Worksop, so I don't get scared by these people or intimidated. I was a reporter during the miners' strike, so I don't feel physically intimidated. My difficulty is I want to respond and you mustn't, so I'm really behaving myself.“

The protesters were widely criticised online.